Barbara Franc Sculpting Wildlife
Talented Sculptor Barbara Franc combines her love of animals with her work in order to bring joy to everyone.
In the late 70’s, she attended Morley College of Art where she studied Life drawing under Maggi Hambling and John Bellany. In the late 80’s, she attended Richmond College to study Sculpture under Avril Vellacott, but the most influential of her mentors was Mary Orrom, an inspired and inspiring sculptor, based in Great Missenden, Bucks.
I caught up with Barbara and she kindly answered some questions for us.
What are your first memories of being an artist ?
My own mother was very creative and she always kept hold of things like cardboard boxes and washing up bottles (in those days Blue Peter ‘makes’ always seemed to need a squeezy bottle.) So our house was always full of things that I could use for sticking, glueing and cutting up, but whatever I made, there was always an animal included somehow.
How did you get interested in sculpture and particularly wire work ?
I have always preferred to work in 3D as my hands need to be actively involved. I started first with clay, either firing in my own gas kiln or having it cast into bronze. The technique I used involved making a wood and paper armature which would burn out during firing.
I found I became more interested in the actual armature making itself, as that is the basis of any successful piece. That then led to me playing with various gauges and types of wire, slowly evolving into the methods I use today.
I’ve read that you weren’t allowed animals as a child, is this true and do you think this has influenced your chosen subject matter ?
Yes. I’ve read that online about me as well! It is total poppycock, no idea where that person fictitiously wrote that about me and I have asked for it to be removed but once online, always online it seems. A lesson in don’t always believe what is on the web.
I had a dog, cats, gerbils and rabbits as a child, and now have a dog and two cats plus when my daughter was at home we had 16 species of Stick insects (all needing different food plants) hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs and the best one of all a Panther Chameleon. Oh I’ve also had two horses.
You might guess that my first career choice was to be a veterinarian, but I somehow ended up as the BBC’s first female Cameraman instead !
Where do you source all the bits and pieces that go to make up your wonderful creations ?
I do find a lot of bits and pieces just lying around on the pavement or side of the road, I’m sorry to say. I will glance into a skip if I’m passing and also go to car boot sales and charity shops. All my friends know how excited I will be with an old car windscreen wiper or broken cutlery so they kindly save pieces for me. If I can’t use something I make sure it goes to be recycled.
Where does the coloured metal come from that you (in particular) make the birds with ?
I have boxes and boxes of old decorative biscuit tins etc and I trawl through them to find the right colours that I need for a piece. Again, I have a lot of friends who hunt them out for me, especially on bin days !
Aren’t these amazing, such characters.
Have you ever wondered what your work would appear like in robotic form, or as a story book character ?
Yes, I was approached by an animation tutor to ask if he could collaborate on doing something on one of my birds with his students, but I just didn’t have the time. I have indeed made three special puppet characters that have a vague story sketched out for them but, yet again, haven’t found the time!
Who (if anyone) would you say is an influence on your work, or who’s work you may just admire ?
Well I do think Picasso was one of the best sculptors ever, Elizabeth Frink and Nicola Hicks have been very important to me and there are tons and tons of artists whose work I love and admire, I wouldn’t know where to start. I do try to post about them on my Facebook page.
I also have a lurcher, so I found your scruffy material dogs particularly endearing. Which animals do you enjoy making the most and why ?
I think I enjoy making the domesticated animals such as dogs and horses best, it’s probably because there is such a close and historical ink between them and man.
What plans do you have for the future of your wiry creatures ?
Always to try and keep each piece fresh and individual, I have never really been one for making editions of sculpture, I like the idea that each piece is unique and that is what wire offers to me.
I love this image of a hare in progress and the studio shot of Barabara’s faithful fellow worker (perhaps a part time model also).
Many thanks to Barbara for sharing her work and thoughts with us today. What a visual treat !